Before Chris Harris Jr. was a Pro Bowl player on a Super Bowl champion team, he was a free agent whose friends and family were telling him to hang up his cleats.
Harris finished his college career at the University of Kansas as a standout defender, a team captain as a senior and ranking No. 3 all-time for tackles made by a cornerback. But when the 2011 NFL Draft came and went without his name being called, many thought his career was over.
"Friends—well, ex-friends—and some family members were just saying, 'Get a real job. Just quit pursuing football,'" Harris says. "And this was during the lockout, so we couldn't communicate with NFL teams. I was just at home."
But Harris didn't quit. Instead, the 5-foot-9, 195-pound cornerback stayed in shape, worked on his fundamentals, and continued to hone his footwork and hands. Later that year, when the Denver Broncos invited him to their training camp, Harris was ready.
That doesn't mean things got easier. On his own website, Harris claims he didn't expect to make the team that year. But he played well enough in camp to earn a roster spot. That season, he saw action in all 16 regular season games, including a breakout contest against the Oakland Raiders in which he recorded 11 tackles and an interception. When the final whistle blew on the season, Harris had played his way onto the NFL's All-Rookie team.
Since then, his play has only gotten better. Harris earned spots in the past two Pro Bowls, and in a recent list of the NFL's Top 100 Players, he was ranked No. 52. But he says the achievement he's most proud of is the Broncos' win in Super Bowl 50.
"I feel like we accomplished something that's super hard to get," Harris says of the championship. "We won as a team, not just as a lot of individuals. And that's what makes our Super Bowl so special."
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